The tragedy Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is one of the masterpieces of German literature. While first published in 1808 it still fascinates the modern reader with both it’s intriguing story and it’s stimulating intellectuality. The exhibition „YOU ARE FAUST“ at Kunsthalle München reflects on both the piece itself as well as on its influence on other artists since its publication. We very much enjoyed our tour through the exhibition as well as the discussions that followed during dinner at a traditional Bavarian restaurant.
In annual tradition, the Oxford Alumni Society in Munich gathered again for its Oktoberfest celebrations. The Oktoberfest is predominantly known for its beer. And indeed, beer plays an important role: It is technically impossible not to have a mug of beer in your hands – not even for a few minutes. Why? Because people want to say cheers every few minutes, whenever the brass-band plays the toast “Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit”. When this song is finished, all party guests count to three and then take a big sip. Of course, this ever-repeating procedure was also carried out this year. Some Oxonians started the evening with having a heated discussion about the upcoming general election in Germany. But intellectual discourse rarely lasts for long at the Oktoberfest. The later the evening, the more hilarious the evening: People standing on the beer benches, chanting their favourite songs about red balloons or cowboys and Indians.
But the Oxford Octoberfest is much more than that: It is the place where old friends celebrate reunion, and new friendships are made. It is the place where long forgotten Oxford stories are rediscovered. And it is the place where unexpected moments (almost necessarily) occur. I think it is not an accident that disproportionally many Oxford couples have met at the Oktoberfest. And this year? We don’t know yet, but we will be told next year at latest.
The alumni society’s first speaker event proved to be a great success. Kaufmanns Casino was packed with enthused Oxonians welcoming HRH Prince Luitpold of Bavaria as our expert speaker. The plethora of Bavaria’s finest brews he brought with him didn’t stifle the atmosphere either.
In his enlightening presentation, Prince Luitpold gave us an overview of the development of the craft of brewing in Bavaria and its close links to his family.
He immersed us in history, touching on milestones such as the Purity Law of 1516, the initiation of the world famous Oktoberfest as a wedding feast of King Ludwig I, and the wheat beer monopoly of Duke Maximilian I. Regarding the latter, he remarked (not without a twinkle in his eye) that it was the people’s thirst for wheat beer which secured national stability and Christianity in Bavaria.
As CEO of “König Ludwig International”, Prince Luitpold offered us first-hand insight into successful international brand management, which in his case is in over 10 markets.
Finally, his beer sommelier Artem Vynogradov guided us skilfully through a tasting of no less than six select beer specialities by “König Ludwig International”.
All in all, it was an indeed memorable evening!
One of the sporting highlights of the Oxford calendar has always been the annual Boat Race. Not only because it is one of the oldest and most traditional rowing races in the world, but also because many of us Oxford boaties spent countless hours on the Isis trying our luck to win blades in college rowing. Many of us looked up to the few selected men and women, who actually made the Blues rowing team (OUBC) and sacrificed so much of the otherwise hallowed student social life for the potential of earning eternal glory by beating the Tabs on the Tideway.
So now several years after leaving behind the Isis waters, we still gather in Munich at the Isar River (notably similar to Isis actually) to watch the race of our university day heroes and heroines – who we feel so closely connected to, because these part-time athletes are training and studying in the same place where we used to be a few years back.
This year, the Oxford Munich Society organised the viewing event, which was last held in 2015, right next to the Ludwig Maximilian University at CADU. Surrounded by libraries and lecture halls, and young lads carrying piles of books the CADU actually provided a very student-y vibe for the event. With more than 40 alumni, the event had a huge turn-out and it was a pleasure to co-host the event together with the Munich Cambridge Society, who braved the century-old animosities and showed up in amicable fashion. A definite highlight was seeing so many alumni turning up in their old rowing blazers and stash. The mix of dark blue and turquoise – excuse us – light blue fashion items from both Oxford and Cambridge showed that the divide from our student days have indeed been bridged – and that together we celebrated this piece of British sporting tradition, that you could’t find in Germany.
Therefore, we hope that the Boat Race viewing event will continue to be a reference day for both Oxonians and Cantabrigans in Munich, to meet in merriment and sporty admiration for each others rowing wizardy (e.g. catching a crab at the first stroke at the start). Oh yes, and did we talk about the results yet?
To kick off the year in style, the Munich Oxford Society once again – for the fourth year running – teamed up with the local LSE Alumni chapter for the traditional joint Weißwurstfrühstück, a brunch consisting of Bavarian ‘white sausages’, pretzels and wheat beer. For the second time, we gathered at Donisl, a recently-refurbished beer hall on Marienplatz, the city’s main square, with a history stretching back to 1315, which provided a very adequate setting. Old friendships were renewed and new ones formed, and after an extensive brunch, a part of the group embarked on a stroll through the Englische Garten, Munich’s largest park, to walk off some of the calories consumed earlier.
On 5 December 2016, a record 90 Oxonians across several generations and their guests joyfully welcomed the festive month at the Oxford Society Christmas Dinner, the highlight of yet another events packed year over here in Munich.
Now already for the 3rd year in a row, we were fortunate to have our dinner at a festively decorated old Munich gentlemen’s club. In this beautiful venue we were transported back into formal hall spirit, overlooking Hofgarten covered in icy frost. Our stomachs were warmed by the delicious duck with Blaukraut and Knödel, aka the German version of turkey with sprouts and Yorkshire pudding, while the lovely pianist Bonnie enchanted our ears and loosened our voices with Christmas carols in between courses. Amidst all cosiness, our president Annemarie held a thought-provoking speech and encouraged an open dialogue and action in these times of political uncertainty in Europe and beyond. We took her words to heart and discussed the past, present and future at the bar until late, fuelled by home made mince pies and sherry.
Thank you to the committee and all our guests for such a delightful Christmas night! It only remains to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a happy & healthy 2017!
And do watch out for our new term card, filled with staples and surprises alike…
Reminiscent of the great Oxford days with Summer VIIIs, JCR garden parties and commemoration balls, the Oxford Society Munich decided that a proper British Garden Party was needed to cure our own nostalgia. After the Brexit hangover, we realized that we missed the unique flair of colourful ties, blazers and dresses as much as the staple ingredients like strawberries and PIMMs; the tastes and the merriment that make garden parties in England so special. Luckily Café Tambosi provided a most suitable venue in Munich’s largest quad – the Hofgarten with its cloisters and chestnut trees. It managed to recreate that feeling of tranquillity and well-kept greenery of an Oxford college in Trinity term.
The weather played its part in being very British: changing from rain showers to sunshine back to rainshowers. Marquees do not seem to be a thing here but will surely have to go on the planning list for next year’s party: supplier recommendations in Germany are very welcome. Also the Italian waiters seemed to have taken an expert course in “how to serve PIMMs and lemonade in a perfectly British manner” – and provided more than 60 guests with great service and entertainment. Other than that the Oxford Summer Garden Party was a great success, with record sign-up numbers, fantastic food and active mingling between all age groups (and even a number of courageous Cantabrigans) – again showing the continued strength of the Oxford bond, holding strong even after many years of leaving.
The Munich Oxford Society will definitely continue to bring this flair to Bavaria, and thanks all members for their active participation in our little English bubble.
On Wednesday 25th of May, the society had a special goody on offer for history buffs and anyone with an interest in Munich’s past. Our members had the rare pleasure to participate in a guided tour through the city’s newly established Nazi Documentation Centre led by its founding director, Professor Winfried Nerdinger.
The event was quickly booked out and only a few lucky latecomers were able to snatch tickets from last minute drop-outs. The tour turned out to be extremely interesting, as the group was not only able to see the impressive exhibition itself, but also get some unique insights from Professor Nerdinger on its concept and history.
Leading through the entire documentation centre in a historical tour de force from the end of World War I through the horrors of World War II to the present day, he explained how its focus is meant to be on recounting the story of Munich’s role as capital of the Nazi movement in a sober and balanced way in contrast to more politically charged documentations of earlier decades. For him, the goal is to get across the message and let large historical photographs, short video clips, historical newspapers and letters tell their stories – accompanied by texts putting things into perspective and providing overviews and quantifications. This approach also explains the sober, minimalist architecture of the centre, which stands in stark contrast to the neo-classical Nazi buildings in its vicinity such as the former “Führerbau” (now the academy of music and theatre) or the historicist style of the former Nazi Party headquarters, the “Braunes Haus”, on the fundaments of which the current museum has been built.
Many of the group felt that they had never been so intensely aware of the dark past of the city. Especially the video projections, showing Nazi processions on locations in Munich known to all from their daily lives were able to convey an unsettling sense of reality and connection to past horrors in a city that nowadays could not be further away from all this.
In the end of the tour, Professor Nerdinger told about his yearlong struggle for the establishment of the centre as an adequate place of remembrance against widespread political reluctance to confront Munich’s brown past. Finally, he was available for a short but engaging Q&A session.
Afterwards, most of the group finished off the evening with food, drinks and stimulating conversations in a nearby restaurant.
An exclusive concert by the young and rising stars of the Opernstudio, 3 tours behind the scenes, and 80 Oxonians and Friends of the LSE.
On Tuesday, 26 April 2016, the Oxford Society Munich invited Oxonians, LSE alumni, as well as friends and family to an exclusive evening behind the scenes of the Bavarian State Opera (Bayrische Staatsoper).
A crowd of 80 guests made the event a most enjoyable success. Three different tours took the culturally curious opera fans not only behind the curtains but beyond and even below the stage, where orchestra and prompter do their magic during the performance. One tour also took the guests to the impressive costume workshop, where they could hear all kinds of insider stories from that part of the Opera House.
After the tours and some refreshing drinks, the wonderful voices of the young artists of the Opera Studio took us on a vocal journey from Vienna (Strauß’ Fledermaus) to Sevilla (Bizet’s Carmen) via Paris (Puccini’s La Boheme) and others. The Opera Studio is a program that promotes highly talented young artists and prepares them for an international career. And talented they were indeed.
As ever, when the party ends, the merry crowd needs not to leave. Snacks and drinks were provided to round off the evening by cheerful mingling of Oxonians, Friends of the LSE, and other acquaintances and friends. We are most grateful to Barbara Jagersberger and Nils Pfeiffer for organising this perfectly run event and of course to the Bavarian State Opera for having us.